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US Sen. Sullivan hosts fisheries roundtable as part of US Trade Representative Katherine Tai's visit to Alaska

US Trade Rep Katherine Tai, and US Sentators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski toured a Trident Seafoods plant as part of a visit to Naknek on July 1
Photo courtesy of Sen Sullivan's office
US Trade Rep Katherine Tai, and US Sentators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski toured a Trident Seafoods plant as part of a visit to Naknek on July 1

Alaska U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan hosted a fisheries roundtable last week (June 30) for U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. She is part of President Biden’s cabinet and represents the United States in trade deals across the globe.

Sullivan welcomed Ambassador Tai to Alaska, praising the state’s export economy – particularly the fishing industry.

“I like to call us with good reason, the superpower of seafood, Alaska," Sullivan said. "Two thirds of the seafood harvested in America, two thirds - commercial, sport, recreational, subsistence - is harvested in the great state of Alaska. So we are the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to this.”

One point of focus was the recent Biden Administration’s ban on Russian seafood, which went into effect in June. Sullivan says he has long called for the ban and hopes it will provide leverage for Alaskan seafood markets.

"Russians banned any imports of American seafood in 2014. And we've essentially been allowing Russian seafood to come in duty free, during that time, a completely unlevel, unsustainable trade situation. As you know, I talked to you (Ambassador Katherine Tai), and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, on fixing that. The Biden Administration did issue an executive order to fix that, after the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia. So we appreciate that, that's going to be an interesting opportunity, as we look for more execution of that. I've been talking to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Deputy Secretary on how they execute that," Sullivan said.

Sullivan hosted the fisheries roundtable for Ambassador Tai on June 30 at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. Fisheries participants included Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang, Jeremy Woodrow with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, and board members of United Fishermen of Alaska.

"We're really excited that you're here, you're going to learn from this incredible group of people who represent tens of thousands of hardworking Alaskans who produce in my view, best product in the world: wild Alaskan seafood." Sullivan said. "And you're gonna have some for lunch. I think both the starter salad and the main entree."

Ambassador Tai thanked the group for the invitation to Alaska.

“I have for a long time felt that it is really important as the United States trade representative to know better who it is that I am representing," Tai said. "And unless I make the effort to come out to all the different parts of the United States and to engage with you where you live and work. I'm not going to be very effective at my job. And so I really want to appreciate this invitation and this opportunity.”

Tai says her office is working on fishing trade issues, particularly illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, known as IUU as part of a new WTO agreement.

"We as the United States as part of the 154 member of the WTO were able to secure an agreement that will prohibit certain harmful fishery subsidies, including those provided to vessels were operators engaged in IUU activities," Tai said. "This agreement also addresses subsidies for fishing on overfished stocks and subsidies for fishing in the unregulated high seas, and establishes transparency provisions that will create more accountability in the sector overall.”

Tai said she would brief the group on the US-China trade relationship and negotiations, Russian seafood ban, and leveraging the export economy.

Following the Ambassador’s comments, Senator Sullivan’s fisheries roundtable was closed to the press and public.

The day after the panel (July 1) Sullivan and Tai were scheduled to visit Naknek to meet with representatives of seafood processing companies. In response to requests for their agenda in Bristol Bay, a spokesperson with the Senator’s office said the visit is to ensure Alaskan seafood industry is prioritized in future trade, and “to better understand the sheer volume of fish Alaska handles.”

Corinne Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer who grew up in Oakland, California. She's reported for KFSK in Petersburg, KHNS in Haines, and most recently KBBI in Homer. This is her second season as a fisheries reporter, and now returns as director of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report.